The Chiefs added to their winning streak with a feel-good victory and got itself in playoff position. Momentum was clearly with them.
This season? Yes, as the Chiefs play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday looking to add to their four-game streak.
And last season, too.
After 10 games a year ago, the Chiefs were coming off a triumph over the Seattle Seahawks, had put themselves on the playoff bracket and with the same 7-3 record as the Denver Broncos and were wondering about their division title hopes.
Then it fell apart. Four losses in the final six games pushed the Chiefs out of the postseason.
Avoiding a similar fate and continuing on the path of success becomes the objective, and it’s easier said than done.
“This league is full of momentum,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “It’s hard to get, and you try to keep it.”
It runs both ways, as the Chiefs can attest. A five-game losing streak buried them early. The current run has lifted the team and the spirits — to a point.
“Every team is pretty close in the league,” Johnson said. “When you win, know you have to get better and understand you’re can be just a play or two from losing a game.”
It hasn’t seemed that way lately for the Chiefs who have outscored their opponents by 91 points during the winning streak.
“Getting off a fast start has really helped,” defensive lineman Mike DeVito said. “You make some plays early, get things rolling and that’s your momentum.”
But recall a play or two that could have swung the early-season losses to the Broncos and Bears. That’s why there’s truth behind Andy Reid’s coach speak, when he insists no one game is more important than another.
“You better be up in this league for every opponent that comes in,” Reid said.
True. But late-season games against potential playoff opponents feel different.
“November and December, these months are hard, and the games are big,” Johnson said. “You’re playing teams fighting just as hard as you are.”
That wasn’t the case last week as the Chiefs rolled past the last-place Chargers, but Sunday is a different matter.
If the season ended today, the Chiefs, with a 5-5 record, would be in the playoff bracket as the No. 6 seed with an advantage over the Bills, Jets and Texans, also with 5-5 marks.
The Chiefs have the edge in that quartet because of a head-to-head victory over the Texans and a better AFC record than the Bills and Jets.
But the advantage is lost with a loss on Sunday, and that gives the game a playoff feel.
“I think both teams are desperate to win this game because we know what it means,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “Both teams are fighting to try to get into the playoffs, so we know it’s a critical game for both teams.”
Only the undefeated Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots have a longer winning streak than the Chiefs
Other factors bode well for the Chiefs, 5-5. There are the tie-breaker advantages. Also, no remaining Chiefs opponent has a winning record.
It’s why analysts have made Chiefs favorites to reach the tournament. FiveThirtyEight.com, the statistical analysis site by Nate Silver, gives the Chiefs at 70 percent of reaching the playoffs and an 11 percent chance of winning the AFC West.
Others have come up with similar percentages.
All of which raises the stakes for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
“This is the time of year you want to peak,” Johnson said. “Nobody wants to start the year the way we started. But if you want to be playing well in one half of the season, now is the time.”